DVD Review

DVD Review_Veronica Guerin (2003)

Written by Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue, Directed by Joel Schumacher 

Bravery is shaping up as my theme of the week over at Girls with Glasses.  And this woman tops them all, hands down.  Joel Schumacher (“Lost Boys” and “Batman & Robin”) directs and Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Pearl Harbor”) produces this serious, personal story of a journalist who refuses to let the mobsters of 1996 Dublin beat her into submission…wait.  What?


I know.  Crazy but true.  These two classic Hollywood hams helmed the telling of this fantastically small (by their standards), true story.  Okay, so they had some help from the Irish – writers, crew, and all the actors, with one notable exception – their Aussie lead, Cate Blanchett.  Here she plays Veronica Guerin, the courageous woman in question.  Per usual, Blanchett is perfect, but I don’t mean in a distant, professional way.  Yes, she shows Guerin’s bravado, but this is also probably the most likeable character I’ve ever seen her portray – no queens or Elvish ladies in sight.  Just a soccer fanatic with a penchant for talking to people in deep trouble (as well as the folks causing it), and doing it with a disarming lilt and infectious enthusiasm.  (Blanchett received a ten minute standing ovation at the Dublin premiere, a city which considers Guerin a national hero, bordering on sainthood.) 

What I really enjoyed about this film was the toned-down honesty of it.  It’s not a glammed-up, brochured Ireland, but the Dublin I remember visiting several times in the early 1990s.  Very unlike its popular carefree image, Ireland then was suffering its worst poverty in a century.  The British students at my Welsh university joked that it was the Third World nation of Europe.  Bus trips across the country revealed entire villages that had been abandoned, and our Dublin hostel staff warned us to hide our money well from the gangs of street children roaming the streets – in all parts of the city.  Ninety percent of Ireland, they told us, lived in Dublin, and over half of it was dead broke.  No wonder mobsters came to rule the roost.  (Northwest readers might be interested in seeing how meth had already established itself in Dublin, at the same time it was just taking hold in northern California, Oregon and Washington.) 


Unlike many an indie flick dealing with drug use and council flats (see “Trainspotting”), though, the audience isn’t trapped in this grey hopelessness.  We move, just as Guerin does, between this world and the cozy, stone-walled country house she and her very middle-class, very happy family share.  Speaking as an American living in comparative middle-class comfort and security, I needed these scenes as a pressure valve.  I don’t want to feel I can’t escape, not just out of bourgeois guilt (though of course that’s there, too), but because otherwise, what’s the point?  If you can’t change a thing, if you aren’t trying to make it better, then why wallow?  Misery is so much easier to depict than a way out of it.  Despair is easier to earn on film than hope.  But I don’t want to watch it.  No worries here.  It’s not a Hollywood ending, but I did experience joy, resolution and inspiration along with the honesty. 

Of course, none of these high ideals or artistic integrity mean anything in the end if you fall asleep halfway through the movie.  I think this is why we’re all so suspicious of Important, Nominated Films.  Yes, they’re serious, well-acted, etc., but…well…it looks a little boring. 


Not a bit here.  Greasy mob insider and brothel-boss Ciarán Hinds (Julius Caesar in HBO’s recent “Rome”), an excellent supporting cast and quick cuts all keep the pace lively and the voyeur in us all engaged.  Even Colin Farrell shows up for a good-natured cameo.   

Great movie – popcorn would be perfect.  Maybe Bruckheimer and Schumacher knew what they were doing after all.

DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Ghost in the Shell

Howdy!  To all regular (and not-so-easily-categorized) readers of “Back Seat Producers,” I send greetings!  Tony and the gang have invited me, Melanie Young, on as an estrogen-heavy contributor of DVD reviews.  I’ll be attempting to post here a couple times a week, though I also post daily over at my regular blog: – which I welcome you to visit!

I’m attempting to review 365 movies in 365 days as my 2009 resolution.  So far, I’ve done well – until this week.  I’m two movies behind, but gaining.  That’s why I post which day it is, and which film I’ve made it to in my Quest, as in Day 1, Film 1 (the memory of which is fading quickly).

Be forewarned:  Tony picked me up after reading my “Godfather” review – in which I bemoaned any woman ever being anything but bored by the thing (ask your wife).  So, if you’re a guy, we might not always see eye to eye.  Rest assured, I adore many movies these guys like.  I think Joss Whedon walks on water, and that the new “Battlestar Galactica” is the best thing TV has produced in 20 years.  I’ve got no specific agenda or axe to grind, I’m just trying to give an honest, modern American woman’s view on film.  Since only half of American newspapers even bother printing reviews by women, it might be something you’re unprepared for. 

Many, many thanks to the guys at Back Seat Producers for taking the plunge.  And I do have a treat for you today…comment away!

 Day 22, Film 20:  “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)  (Japan)

Written by Kazunori Ito based on the manga by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

So I’ll admit I hadn’t ever made myself actually watch “Ghost in the Shell” until now.  If you live outside the sci-fi/fantasy worlds, you’ll be wondering why this is a big deal.  If you travel inside them, as I often do, you’ll be shaking your head at my audacity.  Especially if you’re a male cybergeek of a certain age – this film essentially put manga on the world map.  I hear it referenced with awe at both sci-fi and movie conventions – a sort of breathless wonder at the purity of the manga form (Japanese comics). 


I personally am not a manga girl (I won’t be reviewing the sequels), but it doesn’t take one to see the appeal of “Ghost” – nipples.  Robot nipples, skin-toned nipples, buffed-out, straining nipples; wet ones, arched ones, thrashing ones, falling-to-certain-death ones, even electrified ones…you get the picture.  Who couldn’t?


Yes, there’s some pretty cool animation throughout.  Tonally, it’s “Blade Runner” animated; the rain never stops falling.  And subject-wise, there are some deeper questions being discussed – what makes us human?  Is it merely self-awareness?  In a futuristic world peopled by humans modified extensively by technology and Cyborgs, this becomes a hot political topic – one worth killing for, covering up (with never-ending expositional speeches) and engaging in gratuitously violent chase scenes.  There’s some cool technology – especially the ‘cloaking’ type devices that most of the villains and heroes employ.  Funny how only the male ones get to keep their clothes on to use it. 

But the beautiful Japanese folk music isn’t enough to cover clunky dialogue or add any real meaning to the random wind-swept profile shots.  There’s way too much backstory being told instead of seen, and the deep introspection of the often-naked female lead evaporates alongside a male scientist’s 14-year old joke, “I wonder if he [the male voice inside a naked, prone female Cyborg body] has a girlfriend?”  Just in case you needed guidance to any porn-lite fantasies you weren’t already having.  At least this first installment features the faces of fully-grown women, versus the follow-ups, which obviously devolve into the normal 12-year old schoolgirl fantasy (somehow retaining the chest of a 22-year old pinup).

All I have to say to those holding out this film as evidence of a deeper sensibility in the sci-fi world is: get over yourselves.  You dig the naked chicks.